Relationship: Lead puberty and overweight


Girls who reach puberty earlier than others are often overweight. A study by the University of Exeter has discovered a possible connection.

Girls who get their first menstrual period early often tend to be overweight. A scientific evaluation of an international group of 175 scientists confirmed this possible connection. Indications would have shown that nutrition makes a significant contribution to the point at which the first menstruation begins. Genetic variations and environmental influences are important factors. With environmental influences e.g. also the children's diet and lifestyle. Depending on how the children and adolescents eat, the onset of the first menstruation is also time-dependent. In order to confirm this assumption, numerous data from previous studies were evaluated.

The time of the first menstruation (menarche) is very different in girls. In some children, the first menstrual period begins at the age of nine. In others, the first period does not begin until the age of majority, i.e. between the ages of 17 and 18. This enormous variation is primarily due to genetic factors. Scientists estimate that the genetic part is 50 percent. The other half is determined by so-called environmental influences. According to research results, diet plays an important role. If there is a lack of minerals, vitamins and other important nutrients, the first bleeding is postponed. This means that if the children suffer from underweight, the menarche appears much later. If there is an oversupply of food and there is an overweight, the rule starts much earlier. This phenomenon can be observed particularly in the western industrialized countries.

In order to establish the connection between diet and puberty and the first menstrual period, the international research group examined the data from a total of 32 previous studies. A total of 87,000 women were analyzed. The scientists primarily took the genetic data and compared it with the onset of the menarche. The result of the study revealed that around 30 gene variants are responsible for the onset of menstruation. Another ten genes are suspected to also play a role. The latter are probably also responsible, but the evaluation of this result could not prove beyond any doubt.

In addition to the genes that regulate hormonal or cell cycle processes, many gene variants that regulate fat metabolism were also responsible. These are suspected to play an important role in the development of overweight. In conclusion, the scientists summarized that some women are predisposed to being overweight and to early puberty. All other existing relationships, i.e. why the onset of puberty is so different, have not yet been researched. According to the researchers, the 30 genes that were researched only make up a total of six percent.

So far, only two genes have been identified that are involved in timing. These two genes only accounted for 0.6 percent. The newly discovered variants increase the researched factor by ten, but this is still not sufficient to explain all influences sufficiently. Therefore, there must be many other components that determine the time of sexual maturity in girls. If other genes could be discovered and analyzed, explanatory patterns could also be found, for example why early onset menstruation favors later diseases such as diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure. The research results were published in the science magazine "Nature Genetics". (sb)

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Photo credit: Barbara Eckholdt / pixelio.de

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